The municipality of Pontevedra is located between 42°20' and 42°30' north and 8°33' and 8°41' west, in the southwestern Galician coast, an area popularly known as Rias Baixas. The municipality covers 118.3 km² and is about 20 km wide from north to south.
The city sits at the end of the ria that bears its name, occupying the valleys of the Lérez and Tomeza rivers. It extends southwards to the mouth of river Verdugo in Ponte Sampaio. It is surrounded by four mountainous regions divided by two faults, one stretching north-south and one from northeast to southwest.
To the north it borders the municipalities of Barro, Moraña and Campo Lameiro; to the east, Cotobade and Ponte Caldelas; to the south, Soutomaior, Vilaboa and Marín, and to the west, Poio and the ria, leading to the Atlantic Ocean.
The parishes of Pontevedra are: Alba, Bora, Campañó, A Canicouva, Cerponzóns, Lérez, Lourizán, Marcón, Mourente, Ponte Sampaio, Pontevedra e Eiriña, Salcedo, San Xosé, Santa María de Xeve, Tomeza, Verducido, Virxe do Camiño, Xeve.
The neighbourhoods or main areas of Pontevedra are: O Burgo, Monteporreiro, Campolongo, Mollabao, A Seca, Salgueiriños, A Parda, Eduardo Pondal. A Caeira, although officially located in the municipality of Poio, is often considered as just another neighbourhood of Pontevedra.
The average temperature is 15°C, with a yearly oscillation of 10°C (10°C of average in January for minimum, to 20°C average in July for maximum). Its proximity to the sea and, most importantly, the calming effect of the ria, make temperatures pleasant for most of the year. Yet, like all the Galician coast, Pontevedra is subject to occasional Atlantic storms in Winter. These are characterised by a quick drop in temperature, rain and gales.
Overall Pontevedra is rainy, especially at the end of Autumn and Winter, with an annual average precipitation of 1,700-1,900 mm, and around 102 rainy days per year. Summer is dry generally speaking, but the odd rain may happen.
The municipality of Pontevedra is composed of the city of Pontevedra and fifteen rural parishes in close proximity, with a total population of 80,202 (as of June 2007). This results in a relative high density of population of 677.9 inhabitants per square kilometre. About two-thirds of the population live in the city, and one-third in the rural parishes.
The population of Pontevedra is mature where generational replacement is not necessarily assured, although the city has been slowly but gradually growing in recent years. In the breakdown it shows 15.93% of senior citizens, 69% between 15 and 65 years, and just 15.01% under the 15 years of age. The natality rate (9.8‰) is only +1.8 over the mortality rate (8‰). The migrational balance is slightly positive (+350 people in 2006).
Pontevedra is well communicated by road and rail. It sits on the Ferrol-Vigo railway corridor. Pontevedra is located between the Galician capital Santiago de Compostela (58 km to the north) and the largest Galician city, Vigo (30 kms to the south). Pontevedra itself does not have an airport, but both Compostela and Vigo have international airports. A good network of roads and motorways efficiently connects Pontevedra with these cities, and also with Portugal (57 kms to the south), and inland (100 kms to the eastern city of Ourense). Regular bus lines link Pontevedra with other Galician cities and towns, as well as with Madrid, Porto and Lisbon (among others).
It is expected that the TAV high-speed train will reach Pontevedra around 2010. Pontevedra will then become a stop in the so-called Atlantic Line, running from the northern Galician city of A Coruña down to Lisbon (Portugal).
Despite the fact that Pontevedra was once the main Galician port, at present the tiny Pontevedra harbour is only used for recreational purposes, not for cargo or passenger transportation. Yet, neighbouring Marín is a major military and commercial harbour which is just 7 kms away (in addition to the Port of Vigo, the biggest fishing port in the world and also a major commercial hub).
Pontevedra has traditionally been a trading city. In the Middle Ages guilds thrived in the old town, giving name to streets and squares still preserved today. At that time Pontevedra was the main Galician port, providing for a very intense fishing and sea-trading activity.
In 1833 Galicia was sub-divided into four provinces, and Pontevedra became capital of its own province. The city then became an administrative and commercial centre, in contrast with Vigo, which attracted the industrial activity. In fact, the first modern industries to appear in Pontevedra would only do so in the 1960s.
At present, the tertiary sector employs 65 per cent of the population, while industry does the 17 per cent. Industrial activity is reduced to a handful of companies, namely pulp mills (in gradual recession) and construction. The tertiary sector is not especially dynamic, although a number of policies have been implemented to improve the situation. Tourism is slowly on the increase, with visitors coming mostly from Spain and Portugal. The total unemployment rate is 12,12% (2001), presenting a clear disparity between men (9.1%) and women(16.4%).
Pontevedra was the seat of Caixa de Pontevedra, one of the credit unions that merged in 2000 with Caixavigo (from Vigo) and Caixa Ourense (from Ourense) into Caixanova, one of the largest credit unions in the Spanish State. The headquarters of Caixanova are also in Pontevedra.
A local legend relates the foundation of Pontevedra to Teucer, hero of the Trojan War, a legend which was reinforced with the suspicions that Greek traders might have arrived to the Rias Baixas area in ancient times. However, historians and archaeologists tend to agree that the initial settlement was probably formed during the integration of Gallaecia (old Galicia) into the Roman Empire (circa 1st century BC). The name of the city is eminently Latin, derived from Pons/Pontis (bridge) and Veteris/Vetera (old), hence Ponte(m)Vetera(m), "the old bridge", in reference to the old Roman bridge across Lérez River (still standing). Well communicated even since Roman times, Pontevedra consolidated itself as an intermediate town during the Suebic dynasty (circa 5th-6th century AD).
During the 12th century Pontevedra rose as an important commercial centre, up to the 15th century when it reached its highest medieval splendour, operating as a trade and communications hub. Pontevedra was then one of the main Galician urban centres. In the 16th century it still was a commercial city, with an increase of the fishing activities. In fact, Pontevedra was the largest Galician port as it was a secure port open to the sea. It was in centuries later that, because of the sedimentation caused by river Lérez, the ria became gradually unsuitable for large scale navigation.
The end of the 16th century marked the beginning of the decadence of the city, a decadence which had already started for the rest of Galicia at the end of the 15th century. The situation would worsen during the 17th and 18th centuries. The port drastically reduced its activity due to the mentioned geographical causes. Furthermore, political decisions and dynastic conflicts provoked a general decay in trade, thus resulting in the depopulation of the city. In fact, the population was reduced in half during that time, also affected by epidemics.
In the beginning of the 19th century Pontevedra was little more than just a small backward town. Fishing, arts and crafts kept the economy going. Yet, with the establishment of new provincial divisions in 1833 Pontevedra suddenly saw itself transformed into a provincial capital. Pontevedra then grew and slowly became an administrative centre. The introduction of the railway also reconnected the city with the rest of the country, after having lost its harbour. All in all, Pontevedra sees in this century a cultural, economic and urban revival. It is in Pontevedra when, in 1853, Xoán Manuel Pintos publishes the first book in modern Galician, "A gaita gallega".
Pontevedra enters the 20th century with great prospects. At that stage the city was the Galician cultural and political heart. Galicianists - such as Alexandre Bóveda and Castelao - take up residence in the city, where they found the Partido Galeguista ("Galicianist Party") in 1931, origin of contemporary Galician nationalism. Yet, the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and subsequent Francoist dictatorship (1939-1975) suddenly put a drastic end to Pontevedra's progression. Political repression and economic hardships forced many into emigration. It was only during the 1960s, with the introduction of some industrial activity, when the local economy partially recovers. However, these same industries would later cause serious environmental and health concerns, forcing the eventual closure of some of them.
With the end of the dictatorship in 1977 the construction sector also develops. Improvements in the communications network during the 1980s and 1990s helped Pontevedra to regain some weight in its regional context, namely in the area of the Rias Baixas, acting again as a trade hub and focusing on its administrative functions as provincial capital. Since 1999 Pontevedra has seen an intense urban renewal and cultural revival, thus positively influencing the local economy. For example, Pontevedra has transformed into one of the most accessible cities for disabled people, being awarded a national prize on urban renewal for this issue in 2006.
The introduction of university studies in the city during the 1990s contributed further to the dynamism of the city.
Pontevedra is a provincial and comarcal (regional) capital, as well as seat of the district court. The city hosts the headquarters of the provincial government as well as a delegation of the Galician government, in addition to some offices representing the Spanish government. All in all, the city provides a wide range of administrative services with an effect reaching far beyond its municipal limits. Thus, this makes Pontevedra a focal point for intense political struggles despite its relative small size.
Since the recovery of democracy in 1977 after the dictatorship, Pontevedra's local government had traditionally been controlled by the conservative People's Party of Galicia (Partido Popular de Galicia, PPdeG-PP). However, after the 1999 elections the office of Mayor was won by Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores, representing the Galician Nationalist Bloc (Bloque Nacionalista Galego, BNG), in coalition with the Socialist Party of Galicia (Partido Socialista de Galicia, PSdeG-PSOE), until today. The local corporation is divided into a number of departments, or concellarias, each one dealing with a specific issue such as Planning, Environment, Revenue, Mobility and Transportation, Sports, Public Works, Tourism, etc.
Results of the local elections in Pontevedra:
The city houses a number of university departments, acting as a branch of the University of Vigo. Namely these are: Nursing, Forestry Technical Engineering , Physiotherapy , Educational Sciences and Sport, Social, Media and Communication Sciences Yet, many come to Pontevedra to complete their studies in Fine Arts , as this is the only location in Galicia where this discipline can be studied at university level.
Pontevedra also hosts a branch of the Spanish national distance university, the UNED. The city has its own Official School of Languages (EOI Pontevedra), regulated by the Galician Department of Education.
Cultural infrastructure in Pontevedra is mainly represented by two venues: The Teatro Principal, in the old town, with a capacity of 434 seated spectators; and the Auditorium-Congress Hall, a modern complex composed by an auditorium with capacity for 772 seated people, a large congress hall, and a number of meeting rooms and smaller halls. In addition, every year the City Council organises a series of free, open and public activities, such as a Jazz festival , open air cinema sessions, a medieval fair reenactment, and other festivities that normally take place in the streets and public squares of the old town.
An ancient town and medieval port, Pontevedra has been described as a "definitive old Galician town". Sights include the pilgrim chapel in the Praza da Peregrina, the historic Zona Monumental (old city), the Praza de Leña, the market, and the Alameda, a promenade along the ria. Pontevedra has a large pedestrian centre (the old town and surroundings) which, together with a number of parks and public squares, makes the city quite pleasant for strolling. In recent years most historical buildings and streets have been either re-built or revamped, providing for a well preserved urban landscape.
Pontevedra is the seat of the Centro Galego de Tecnificación Deportiva (High Performance Sporting Centre of Galicia), and it also hosts a number of rowing and canoeing clubs. In fact, world and Olympic canoeing champion David Cal used to train in the ria of Pontevedra.
Pontevedra is twinned with
Pontevedra is on the route of the Way of Saint James, namely its southern or "Portuguese" branch. The Church of Peregrina, with a most peculiar scallop-shaped plant, was and still is an unavoidable stop for all pilgrims and visitors.
Pontevedra has the second largest "old town" in Galicia, only after Santiago de Compostela.
Speech by the President of the Government at the Official Opening of the Sixth Building of the Provincial Museum of Pontevedra
Jan 04, 2013; MADRID, Spain -- The following information was released by the President of the Government of Spain: Good morning, everyone. I...